How To Lookup Wisconsin License Plates
When looking up Wisconsin license plate numbers, you only need the tag number and an online search portal. When you enter a plate number, you will see things like the vehicle's year, model, make, engine type, transmission, manufacturer, brakes and steering system, and even the MSRP. However, if you are looking for more information like the driver's name, address, phone number, social security number, driver's license number, photographs, or other details, you have to comply with strict privacy laws. If you violate these laws, you could be subject to very expensive fines, lawsuits, and even prison time. When requesting records, you must supply not only your contact details but also your driver's license number and FEIN. In some cases, you will need signed consent from the owner.
Wisconsin Vehicle License Plate Rules
The state of Wisconsin requires that all drivers have two license plates on their vehicles. Additionally, they state that "State law requires that when WisDOT issues two license plates, both plates must be attached to the vehicle; one on the front and one on the rear. The plates must be maintained in a legible condition and displayed so that they can be seen and read. License plate brackets that cover any part of the readable message on a license plate are illegal".
The rear license plate must have a month and year validation sticker as well. Cars and trucks are registered each year. Motorcycles and mopeds may be registered every two years. Some other types of vehicles, like large trucks and trailers, may be registered every quarter or monthly.
In Wisconsin, your license plate and registration stickers are evidence that you have paid your fees and are properly registered. They don't issue registration cards that you have to keep in your automobile.
License Plate Options in Wisconsin
Wisconsin offers residents its standard license plate, which most people will use. Then they also have dozens of other designs and license plates meant to honor organizations, foundations, and causes. Some of them may be personalized, but some may not. You can order them at any Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) customer service center. Some examples of specialty plates are:
- Amateur Radio
- Donate Life
- Emergency Medical Services
- Harley Davidson/Share the Road
- In God We Trust
- Medal of Honor
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Whitetails Unlimited
- Wisconsin Women's Health Foundation
This is just a small sampling of what they have to offer. They also issue disability plates to those individuals who need them.
What Does the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in Wisconsin Say?
Wisconsin respects the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) laws and has expanded them with their own protection.
The Wisconsin DOT explains how their open records law and DPPA laws intersect: "Wisconsin has an Open Records Law (Wis. Stat. 19.31 – 19.39). This means the public has the right to access appropriate records and information collected by state government, including DMV records. The law recognizes the need to balance individual privacy with the public's right to access personal information from government records. Both state and federal law identify specific records and data that are confidential or that may be disclosed only for limited purposes.
Privacy is of the utmost concern even with an open records law. DMV is committed to protecting personal information to the fullest extent possible by law. DMV only collects information necessary to deliver DMV services and products".
Additionally, the DOT will not issue driver's license numbers, social security numbers, photographs, medical information, or biometrics in any records request supplied under DPPA laws.
Wisconsin License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Okay for Me to Lookup License Plate Numbers in Wisconsin?
It is entirely legal to look up a license plate number in Wisconsin to find basic vehicle information like the make, model, year, and other manufacturer details. Freedom of Information Acts allows this type of information to be shared. However, if you are looking to find driver details and personal information, you must comply with strict DPPA laws.
What Information Will They Ask Me For?
The state of Wisconsin has a particular form (MV2896) to use to request motor vehicle records that contain personal details. When making a request, you need to supply your name, business name (if applicable), FEIN, or driver's license number, your address, phone number, and email address. Then you can supply one of the following to search upon, the vehicle owner's name, date of birth, and driver's license number. Or you can use the year, make, VIN, or license plate number. In some cases, you will need signed consent.
How to Look Up a Wisconsin License Plate Using the VIN?
You can use the state-mandated method by using the form above to lookup license plate information using the VIN. The form has a spot for that information on it. Or, you can use one of many third-party online portals, the NHTSA lookup tool, or the national title registry to find out about crash reports and open recalls on a vehicle.
How to Find the Owner of a License Plate in Wisconsin?
It is not legal to use motor vehicle records or a license plate lookup to find the owner of a vehicle in Wisconsin without a valid reason. The very reason that DPPA laws were enacted was due to a stalker using DMV records to find and murder an actress. Therefore, if you have a valid need to find someone based on their license plate, the best thing to do is contact the local police and ask them for help. They may not share personal name and address details with you, but they can contact the owner for you.
What Can I Use License Plate Information For?
Wisconsin follows the federal DPPA laws pretty closely. On their motor vehicle records request form, they have a list of the allowable uses for personal information contained in those records. They are as follows:
- An individual can get a copy of their own
- In conjunction with motor vehicle safety, emissions, and recalls
- Government agency use
- Law enforcement use
- For the use with a court case or legal proceeding
- Research and statistics
- Impound lots or towing companies
- Private investigations
- Private toll usage
How Can I Look Up Wisconsin License Plates for Free?
It's pretty easy to look up a Wisconsin license plate for free online. There are dozens of public records repositories you can use to enter a plate number and see things like the vehicle's year, model, make, engine type, transmission, manufacturer, brakes and steering system, and even the MSRP.